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7th September 2019 - Colombia Clean Up

TRIP REPORT: COLOMBIA CLEAN UP AUGUST 2019

URABA, ANTIOQUIA AND INIRIDA

Dates: August 10th to August to 23rd August 2019

Participants:

Jules Eden – Lifelong birder jules@e-med.co.uk

Tom Eden [son] – non-birder, sports nut and studying Spanish at University.

Arrangements:

Manakin Tours

Cost:

A lot. POA

Why Colombia?

This was my fourth tour to Colombia within the last 18 months. The previous 3 trips were to all the usual places –[ Mitu, Magdalena Valley, Cauca Valley, Santa Marta and the Bogota area] but this trip was designed to pick off most of the remaining endemics, whilst also going somewhere my son could not only speak Spanish but also find something interesting to do whilst I was out birding all day. As this was a Dad/Lad bonding session there had to be evening entertainment as well. I could not just slope off to bed after dinner as per usual bird tours as he would have thought me totally old and useless.

Our guide Alejandro Pinto [Ale] is a young Colombian that I have birded with before and the repeat business was because I thought he and Tom would get along well. He also has a lot of experience in Inirida which was to be the high point of the tour. He also has a great sense of humour, good eyes and tolerates all of my failings when birding.

August 10 -Medellin

Arrival day. Ale was meeting us at 7pm at the hotel, but my flight got me there at 9am. Tom had arrived safely on a bus from Santa Marta an hour before me.

The time was well spent on a tour to all things Escobar in Medellin. The culmination of the day was a meeting with his remaining family at their apartment downtown. We were allowed an hours Q and A with them with no questions “off-limits”.

No – Pablo did not have a favourite bird nor possess binoculars.

No – he had no opinion on Mrs Thatcher or David Attenborough.

Yes –he was aware that the terror he caused in the jungles did put off the illegal loggers and hence kept many species hidden but alive.

August 11 Medellin to Apartado

A short flight to Apartado in Uraba province. This is the gateway to the world’s most range restricted puffbird.

We were met by our local guide William from Uraba Nature Tours, dressed in full camo including a large patch on his shoulder with his blood group stencilled on it. Clearly a tough part of the world to bird.

Most reports have birders going to Turbo where there is a ferry to Bocas del Atrato, but we went a different way. 20 minutes from the airport is a small village by a river. From here we took a boat directly to Bocas, a longer boat ride but much less time in a car. After one hour on the water we swung into Bocas to pick up a local farmer called Nelson. He has a patch of forest 10 minutes back downstream with some good trees still left.

Within 3 minutes of disembarkation through 2 foot deep mud, Ale had the SOOTY-CAPPED PUFFBIRD. [new species to me in capitals]

Sooty-capped Puffbird

That’s the way to start a tour.

We picked up a second one quickly and even Tom was impressed to hear that he had seen a species that 99% of birders have never seen.

The boat back and a short drive took us to Carepa where we checked into the hotel. We left Tom there after lunch as we headed off to some forest by a river on a ranch near Chigorodo, about an hour away.

This was William’s spot for DUSKY-BACKED JACAMAR. 3 turned up and even did that jacamar thing where they perch in a line and moves their head in synchronicity. Very sweet. You can see why the world loves a jacamar.

Dusky-backed Jacamar

EVENING – I could not figure out why the locals in the bar opposite the hotel kept making bird-flying-shapes with their hands at me. Tom’s Spanish did not go that far either. Later we found the answer. Over 3 thousand Gray-breasted Martins have made the phone wires at the end of the road their evening roost. A spectacular sight – until you have to walk under them to the local Pool Hall to get drubbed by the boy. A least he took more guano than I did on the walk back. There is a God.

Don’t look up with your mouth open.

August 12 – Carepa

The first full day birding. We drove an hour plus to some roadside forest where we parked up at Mutata and the sight of William in his combat fatigues clearly concerned the local kids waiting for the school bus. We hit on Choco Toucan, Rufous-winged and Golden-hooded tanagers, Purple Honeycreeper, Black-capped pygmy-tyrant and a White-tailed Trogon before the main event came along. 3 BAUDO OROPENDOLAS. In the scope and in the bag. We had to push on out especially as the kids were now used to us and asking for cigarettes. Cheeky.

We drove another hour and walked across farmland to get to a thinly forested trail called La Bonga, where they probably do the Conga.

This was still quite birdy despite the time but our big target, the Stripe-throated Wren was poorly behaved. It replied to tape but just stuck itself into the vine tangle and seemed to work backwards from there. A big miss. There is a perfect forest pool at the bottom of the trail where we lunched on pork fat encased in sticky rice. I gave mine to a passing farmers dog. He had come from a finca, a long walk up the other side of the valley where the Rufous-crowned Pittasoma had been seen. Sadly we had no time to try for this bird. The walk back threw us an unexpected THICK-BILLED SEEDFINCH as well as the discovery of William’s main passion. He would disappear into the forest and come out clutching something in his hand. “Guess what I have?”. “Spider” is my usual reply in these situations – but he would open his hand and proudly grin. “Mud” seemed to be the answer – but then a bright red frog would hop out – “Uraba Poisonous Frog”.

He explained that he was not dead because he had specialist frog training.

At least we knew what to transfuse him with in case he picked up a more lethal species. We got back to the car just as the rains came.

Uraba Poisonous Frog

OTHER BIRDS OF NOTE [OBONs]- Chestnut-fronted macaw, Tawny-crested tanager, Collared forest-falcon, Red-rumped woodpecker, Golden-collared manakin, Chestnut-backed antbird, Stripe-throated and White-whiskered hermits and a showy Bay Wren. [A shame its habits are not passed on to its Stripe-throated cousins.] Ochre-bellied flycatcher, Variable Seedeater.

EVENING – Tom has spent the day with William’s son up on a beach north of Turbo. It looked fairly desolate but at least he had spoken Spanish.

A surprisingly good pizza was followed by guano-dodging before letting the boy beat me 5-0 at pool.

HOTEL – Cedros Plaza, Carepa. Wifi 5/5 – works even in the 3rd floor rooms. Fridges and A/C. Ask for a room with a balcony as it’s good to dry clothes.

Bar over the road. 1 litre bottles of Aquila for $6000, about £1.50

AUGUST 13 – Carepa to Anori

We had the morning to bird the Guineo Trail west of Carepa before we had to fly back to Medellin.

To say this was my worst mornings birding would be a lie.

It was my second worst.

2 thunder storms, fork lightning hitting the ridge near us, charged by 3 mad cows requiring a leaping dive into the bushes off the trail to avoid a gorging and another bloody poisonous frog leaping at me from Williams clutches, my day book soaked and ruined-as well as my cigarettes. All this bracketed a 5 minute clear rain free window. We did get BLACK OROPENDOLA. Several in fact, the other side of the valley, all the features seen easily in the scope.

Though seen on my last trip – this is a good spot for CHESTNUT-WINGED CHACHALACA. We had 3 at least, seen close and at a good time of day. The only other spot for these is a University Car Park in Barranquilla at some un-Godly time of the morning, where you only get a glimpse if you are lucky. This is much better and a must for all the “Chachy-fans” that lurk out there.

The storms had cleared by the time our flight departed for Medellin. From the city’s local airport we met Johan our driver for the next 7 days and set to arrive at the Chestnut-Capped Piha Reserve near Anori in Antioquia. A 6 hour drive.

AUGUST 14 – Chestnut-Capped Piha ProAves Reserve [CCPR]

Dining area

This is a classic ProAves Reserve. A remote setting, run by a husband and wife team- Jose and Noreli with several brightly coloured rooms and no phone signal.

Tom slept in having been well beaten at backgammon after our late dinner last night. We left at 6am after breakfast for the uphill hike to the ridge where the piha likes to hang out.

Johan the Driver tagged along too so we had 3 pairs of eyes and mine for the day. Jose takes the lead here.

20m minutes in we hit a mixed flock that included SCARLET AND WHITE TANAGER at point blank range. RED-BELLIED GRACKLE soon followed with a SOOTY-HEADED WREN as well coming to the call. All this before my first need for a rest. It is about a slow 2 hours walk uphill to the ridge. A beautiful waterfall was a scenic rest stop and WESTERN WOODHAUNTER broke the silence near the top. We had arrived at the top by 9ish. Now to business. This piha is the world’s most range restricted cotinga. And seen by few as this reserve is not on the natural route on a classic Colombian bird tour. The plan of attack was to go back and forth along the high point of the ridge and wait for a call.

Ale got the first glimpse, played the tape. It came in closer, and with a large amount of luck I nailed it through a perfect woody window about 20 metres away. And such was the light that you could actually see the brownish cap. CHESTNUT-CAPPED PIHA. Yihah.

The rest of the targets were farther back down the slope so we had time to chill at the top as it was the best place for lunch.

Jose went off and came back with a clenched muddy fist. “Guess….”

“Poisonous Frog” we replied before he could finish. Another red one. It posed on a mossy log very nicely.

Lunch was brought all the way up to us by the lodge. An incredible service, especially as they also woke Tom up and made him hike to the top as well.

He arrived exhausted as the quick “Meals-on-Legs” route is a near vertical climb for 30 minutes. After our chicken pasta Tom was a bit dismayed to hear we were just walking back down. I think he expected some zip-lining or bungee jumping here at the top. Such is youth.

Lunch atop the mountain

We played a few targets on the slow walk down, and CHESTNUT-CROWNED GNATEATER duly appeared. This was one of my “must-sees” so celebratory dances and fives all round. After the waterfall we got onto a WHITE-CROWNED TAPACULO though the naked eye views were the best as it moved quickly thought the mossy undergrowth and was nigh impossible to get the binoculars on. We finished the trail with a COLLARED TROGON, observing the First Rule of Trogons*

OBONs – Beryl-spangled, Golden and Speckled Tanagers. Uniform Antshrike, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager. Lineated and Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaners, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch. Black and Gold Tanager. Andean Motmot, Moustached Puffbird, Parkers Antbird. We saw Russet-crowned Crake in a grassy bog 5 minutes drive from the lodge.

There are good hummer feeders at the lodge as well as a fruit feeder that brought in 12 species:

Colombian Chachalaca, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Andean Emerald, Crowned Woodnymph, Brown Violetear, Purple-throated Woodstar, Green-crowned Brilliant, White-necked Jacobin, Black-winged Saltator, Red-headed Barbet, Bay-headed Tanager, Black-capped Tanager and Orange-breasted Euphonia.

*First Rule of Trogons – they will always have their back to you.

EVENING – with the Second Ashes test and the Chelsea vs Liverpool Supercup on and no wi-fi or phone reception Tom was a little tetchy. Daddy wins the backgammon again.

CCPR TIPS – there is no wi-fi here and patchy phone reception at best. Rooms have A/C but it is not really needed as it is quite cool here. There is no alcohol available at the lodge so bring your own, and they let you store it in their fridge. Laundry is possible here as they have just bought a tumble dryer. Food is excellent and coffee available all day.

Purple-throated Woodstar on the feeders.

AUGUST 15 – CCPR to Rio Claro

Ale had a secret spot 20 minutes down the road for another target endemic. We planned a 2 hour window to get it and briefed Tom we would be back and leave after lunch for Rio Claro. But when things go to plan, they really do sometimes. We got MAGDALENA ANTBIRD within 30 seconds of arrival at some roadside bushes, so were able to get back to the CCPR lodge, wake the lad and head out of Dodge much earlier.

It is a 5 hour drive to Rio Claro, but Johan shaved an hour off this thanks to his tailgating and good use of the horn. To Tom’s delight Ale was happy to let him use his phone to get news of England in the Ashes series. We should really have bought a SIM card at the airport on arrival.

Rio Claro means Clear River – obviously. And the hotel there makes use of this with tubing, kayaking, spelunking or just jumping in it. Tom headed off to do one of these, but we drove farther down the road, past the cement factory to another bird site – the Condor Caves. Ale had seen our next target there 2 years previously, so we hoped it had not moved from that spot in the last 24 months!

It hadn’t. GREY-CHEEKED NUNLET was in the same bush and hung around for a good half-hour. The riverbed towards the caves was covered by arching trees – creating an antbird tunnel. Bicoloured Antbird showed well, as well as Chestnut-backed.

Grey-cheeked Nunlet

This quick tick gave us extra time to get the main Rio Claro must see. The Antioquia Bristle-tyrant is best located around the cabins and chalets of the hotel – so must be pretty easy as you could, in theory, see it out of your room window or even from the restaurant. So there was no panic when we failed to get it in the 2 hours we had before sundown.

EVENING – there is a buffet dinner – a fully stocked bar with cold beers at $6k and average wi-fi as so many people are hooked on to it. Daddy continues his hot-streak at backgammon.

We made an attempt at owling here. My rule for this nocturnal pursuit is that it should only be done in flip-flops, in the hotel grounds with a drink in one hand. Anything more than this is over-zealous and will generally lead to disappointment.

We saw nothing.

AUGUST 16 – Rio Claro to Jardin

It had rained all night. It was still raining at dawn. Ale waved at me from his room – there was no point going out until it had stopped. 6am became 8 am. We had early breakfast whilst the drenching continued. Rio Claro had become Rio Mudbath. Finally it ceased at 9am. Mission Bristle-Tyrant could begin.

And it was a complete failure. Nada – not even a call. A Barred Puffbird and egregious Black-faced Dacnis did not even make up for 1% of how disappointed we were. Ale couldn’t even look me in the eye.

Did we try hard enough? We split up 3 ways, took walkie-talkies to call each other in case one of us heard one – did the steep climb over the hill to a spot – twice. But we missed it.

No matter though – Bristle-Tyrants are rubbish anyway.

We drove to Jardin.

Civilization at last. The hotel was on the town square which was packed with bars and restaurants. Some may call this a living Hell – if you are used to quiet lodges in forests – but to me, from South London it was like coming home.

EVENING – with a 4.30 am start tomorrow, it had to be an early one. Taught Tom cribbage and he wins his first game. Pool later, another 5:0 loss. We run into Juan from Medellin who drove me on the last trip to Colombia. He sees me first- coming across the square to say Hi.

AUGUST 17 – Jardin

Johan spots a Tropical Screech-owl on the way up to Alto Ventanas where we arrive by 6am to stake out and see YELLOW-EARED PARROT. 3 flew by close enough to pick out all the colouration but they did not perch anywhere scopable. We pushed on to the breakfast spot at Penas Blancas. This was a proper Colombian farmhouse, with pigs and dogs lazing in the doorway and the cooking team alternating between kicking the chickens out of the culinary area and heating arepas, chocolate and huevos revueltos Colombian-style [ with onions and tomatoes]. Juan made an appearance with his client – a famous Costa Rican bird photographer called Jeff. We all had the same post-brekkie plan – to go to the new antpitta feeding spot started only this year by the lady who used to have a Rufous Antpitta feed higher up the hill.

Ale calls – he has heard more parrots – and across the valley we could pick out 50 of them below a cliff face. Scope views showed all the yellow we needed on their ears.

Antpitta action. 7 of us set off up the short but steep climb to the feed-zone. We all settled on rudimentary benches or tussocks. Jeff had to walk a fair few paces away as his camera was “too big”. Let whistling and name calling commence. “ Bejessa. Bejessaaaaaaaaa”. And so on until in came the CHESTNUT-NAPED ANTPITTA. It was quite tame and I was awarded my feeding moment for good behaviour. It hopped into my hand to take the worm. Certainly worth more than 2 in the bush, [especially if they are bristle-tyrants.] We left Juan and Jeff at the feeder and walked back down to the car. The pitta lady had a cotinga spot for us.

Chesnut-naped Antpitta

This coffee area drew a blank so we went with Ale’s hunch back towards Alto Ventanas. Before that area, Ale let out a high pitched Spanish scream, Johan hit the brakes. He had spotted 2 birds perched on a bare tree 100 metres away. And in the scope –they were CHESTNUT-CRESTED COTINGA.

The day improved even more less than a minute later. A tapaculo was calling in the forest right by where we had emergency stopped.

It was the one I really wanted. I have been missing this bird my whole life – and get heartache every time I read a report where it has been see. Could this be the moment?

No – it came in behind a tree root and somehow got into a thick tangle and would not move. SAS-style I climbed up a three metre mud bank to get closer and a different angle. Still no view. Then it just went quiet. I could have wept.

Ale and Johan commiserated and offered me some spare clothes – such was my filthy state, but they were too small. Then another sound we recognised -the low rumble of Juan’s old Landcruiser. He pulled up and asked what we had seen. On hearing the news, Jeff leant across and showed me his last picture. “where did you get that?” I asked.

“Just after you left the pitta station, we played it as a long shot and one came out” – it was the perfect picture of the just-missed tapaculo.

We were back up there before you could say “speeding fine” in Spanish. Ale played the call and in minutes the angels chorused Hallelujia, all the Gods looked benevolently down upon us and in came OCELLATED TAPACULO.

Life is good.

Ale suggested we look for something else – but I like to finish on a high – and said the only way to beat this would be 20 Cock of the Rocks at point blank range with a beer in my hand. Fortunately Jardin has just the place.

Time to find Tom and see what he has been up to.

OBONs – Rufous-breasted chat-tyrant, Golden-fronted Whitestart chrysops ssp , Black Inca , Lachrymose and Hooded Mountain-Tanagers , Blue-capped Tanager , Cinnamon Flycatcher , Montane Woodcreeper , Speckled Hummingbird , Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher , Green and Black Fruiteater.

EVENING – Tom had made an 8 kilometre hike uphill to a waterfall that gushes through the top of a huge cavern. Aptly named The Cave of Splendour, his pictures were incredible. He had only just made his descent when I arrived back, so to celebrate my tapaculo and his new family distance record we hit the bars and clubs of the town square. On a Saturday night in Jardin, the local farmers bring in their specialist small horses and ride in the “ quick-piaffe” style through the night. With a 4am start it was a unique experience being kept awake all night by the sound of horses hooves.

HOTEL – Hotel Valdivia. Excellent. Wifi works in the rooms – hot showers and views over the town square.

Oh Yessss. Ocellated Tapaculo

Green and Black Fruiteater

A rather stern looking Chestnut-naped Antpitta

AUGUST 18 – Jardin to Santa Rosa de Cabal

An early departure to get to the Bolombolo Dry Forest for this morning’s endemic. Continuing our roll, ANTIOQUIA WREN came to the call with little difficulty. This would give us more time at our destination to maybe get the parrot a day early.

We checked in to our spa-hotel after the 4 hour drive but had made such good time that we could lunch early and get up to the Fuerte’s Parrot viewpoint at Corta Deral.

In the morning’s they fly right to left from the mountain roost to other forest feeding areas – so Ale staked us out for a left to right fly-by as they returned at dusk. We had 2 hours so we could see any early returners.

None came. Plenty of Scaly-naped Parrots, a Purple-backed Thornbill and Grass-green Tanagers but nothing Fuertein.

Back at the hotel the owner was keen to know how we got on, as it is the main accommodation for visiting birders. “ No problems – you will see them tomorrow – everyone does”

I went to bed with a sense of dread as the last time we had 2 shots at a species it became the “The Great Rio Claro Bristle-Tyrant Disaster”

AUGUST 19 Santa Rosa de Cabal to Bogota

We were back at Corta Deral for 5.30 am looking right this time.

“If they have not come by 7.30am”, said Ale, “then it is too late after that”

At 7.29am he revised that to 8.30.

We gave up at 9.

Fuerte’s is now top of my list of “Things you cannot depend on”, pushing British politicians into the Number 2 spot.

As our flight from Pereira to Bogota was not until late we had time to swing by Otun-Quimbaya, but on Sunday afternoons it will be tourist busy and at a bad birding time.

And that is the beauty of Nature. It was a brilliant session. 3 mixed flocks, everything we wanted to call did so and a cheeky surprise on the way out of CHESTNUT WOOD-QUAIL in binocular view just off the roadside where we had seen another fly across.

OBONs – CHESNUT-BREASTED WREN, Slaty-capped Flycather , Bronzy Inca , Cauca Guan , Variegated Bristle-Tyrant , Collared Trogon.

EVENING - Airport Bogota Hilton. Tip: ignore the reception advice that there is nowhere to go locally. 200 metres left out of the hotel are bars and cafes in the smart neighbourhood. Better than the rip-off prices this chain charges its guests.

AUGUST 20 – Inirida

This is what I had really been waiting for. I had read all the trip reports, mainly from a Mr Bartels and knew that there were a lot of fantastic species that awaited us and that I had also not seen in Mitu the year before.

It was Tom’s first trip to the Amazon as well. The Satena flight was on time and the in-flight views were of forests, ox-bow lakes and huge bald stone mountains.

Memorable. Daniel Orjuela our local guide was waiting in arrivals.

The heat hits you like a hundred hairdryers, especially after chilly Bogota. There is a small amount of wind-chill in the open tuk-tuk on the way to the hotel. This is the staple of travel here as there are no roads much beyond the town – only rivers. And as it was wet season, these rivers came right into the town submerging several houses on our way to the Fuente del Guania Hotel de Lujo. Fuente for short.

This is a new hotel run by a charming lady with 2 Border Collies. It is a little out of the main town – but only 5 minutes away by 2 dollar tuk-tuk ride.

We lunched and left Tom in the hands of Pepelito, one of the drivers to find a swim-hole locally, and we headed south to the Cero Cano Culebra Trail.

This was not under-water and as the heat faded the white-sand forest yielded BLACK MANAKIN, YELLOW-CROWNED MANAKIN and 3 BROWN JACAMARS. Soon followed GOLDEN-SPANGLED PICULET and SCARLET-SHOULDERED PARROTLETs.

Our local guide got us on to RED-SHOULDERED TANAGERs just as the sun was setting. A great afternoon, Inirida was exceeding my expectations.

OBONs – Plumbeous Euphonia , Cherrie’s Antwren , Tropical Gnatcacher ssp innotata , Least Nighthawk , Green-backed Trogon , Ivory-billed Aracari , Scaled Pigeon , Variegated Flycatcher.

EVENING – good local food at a meat-eaterie, but the flight and heat have had their toll, an early night.

AUGUST 21 – Inirida

All the reports I have read of this area are from the dry season. January through March seems the “best” time as all the trails are dry and walkable. But the flooded wet season does have one advantage. You have to go everywhere by boat. Perfect if your lazy-gene is as dominant as mine.

We tuk-tukked to where the road was submerged and got a boat-taxi to the Sabanitas Community. SWAINSONS FLYCATCHERS were common on the wires. The indigenous village chief had a large motorised dug-out canoe and he was taking us on to the Cano Carbon Trail that ran 8 metres deep below us.

Of course all the ground dwellers like leaftossers and antpittas had found terra firma elsewhere – but we were now eye-level with the forest canopy.

You had just to be good at rotating your body quickly without falling overboard. Piranhas inhabit these waters.

COMMON SCALE-BACKED ANTBIRD , BLACK-BELLIED CUCKOO and certhia AMAZON-BARRED WOODCREEPER kicked us off. Then finally we got a reply and fly-by to our tape. And with a bit of tippy-toes on the rocking boat we had a perched CAPUCHINBIRD. Things quietened so we found some dry land for “the facilities” and had GREEN-TAILED GOLDENTHROAT as well as Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant and Yellow-throated Woodpecker.

Lunch was back at the Community, cooked by the headman’s family and was what the Scots would call - a Piranha Supper. The locals amuse themselves after eating this fish by putting the toothy lower jaw on their tongue and extending it out like Alien. Cue mass indigenous hysterics when I tried it and almost swallowed it. We had a 2 hour pause in hammocks before trying again for a Yapacana Antbird we had heard earlier. No luck.

They eat us – we eat them. The cycle of life.

The day ended on the road outside of Inirida with RUFOUS-CROWNED ELAENIA, Plain-crested Elaenia and Black-faced Tanagers.

EVENING – pizza Amazon style followed by another pool session by the port area. “Don’t accept any drinks from people” our guide warned. We promptly did as dos Inglese were a total novelty at this venue – contrary his warnings we did not wake up in a hedge- minus wallets and kidneys.

AUGUST 22 – Inirida

This was to be the best day of the whole tour. We headed upstream on the Inirida River and swung off down the Matraca trail, even deeper underwater than yesterday’s one.

Black-chinned Antbird was seen with Pygmy Antwren, Orange-winged Parrots flew calling overhead as Chestnut-eared Ararcaris piled through the canopy. The first lifer was an ORINOCO SOFTTAIL showing really well close to our port-side. Black-tailed Trogon to starboard and a VARZEA SHIFFORNIS at the bow. A while later Ale caught a glimpse of a colourful crest and just above the high water mark we had two AMAZON ROYAL FLYCATCHERS nest building. We cut the engine and tied up to a tree to watch this spectacle for half an hour. Further up the flooded trail a SLENDER-BILLED KITE called and I got it flying off from its perch.

We then heard one of the targets – MOUSE-COLOURED ANTSHRIKE. When these are played, according to Ale, they go quiet and up. But as there wasn’t much more “up” it could have gone we got great views in the canopy of a tree a few metres away. I think I shall recommend the wet season here.

The morning session finished on a high with SPECKLED SPINETAIL. We headed back to find Tom and get lunch.

OBONs – Sulphury-rumped Flycatcher , Wire-tailed Manakin , Striped/Long-billed and Strong-billed Woodcreepers , Spot-backed Antbird , Dusky Antbird, Amazonian Umbrellabird , Reddish Hermit.

After lunch and seeing off the heat of the day, we headed back to the port, with Tom to go downstream on the Inirida and then up from its confluence on the Guaviare River. For here lies species new to science.

This part of the river was busy. After the Inirida and Guaviare meet, it stays named after the latter until it becomes the Orinoco. Venezuela is only an hour away by boat – so every enterprising local and Venezuelan were running boats full of food, oil and essentials from Colombia – and gasoline in the other direction. After the Guaviare turn-off things got quieter.

Daniel had a new spot for the wet season for the Big Target. Discovered a few years ago by Pablo Flores, it is an antshrike that looks very different to all others except the Chestnut-backed Antshrike which lives 600k away in Peru. Frankly if you see images of the 2 then our one here looks very different – there’s barring only to the mid-chest, then black above. The Peruvian cousin has barring up to the throat. They do sound similar – but if you are really honest – all antshrikes sound the same. That hollow laughing repertoire offers little in range or variability. So it is a new species, INIRIDA ANTSHRIKE and I will fight anyone who says differently.

It came to the call and posed openly in a nearby tree. At one point I had the female and an ORINOCO PICULET in the same binocular field. Tom was not impressed when I said this was equivalent to a hole in one in golf, something he has yet to achieve.

Farther upstream we had a DARK-BILLED CUCKOO and Daniel found his seedeater spot – with everything but the Lesson’s we wanted. A White-eared Jacamar came easily and we soon had to boat back before sundown.

OBONs – Rusty-backed Spinetail , Black-capped Donacubius , Hoatzin , Scarlet and Chestnut-breasted Macaws , Lined/chestnut-bellied and Gray Seedeater. Both river terns and incredibly close views of the Pink River-dolphins. The best day by far.

EVENING – Madness. Tom had seen a strange game throughout rural Colombia. It is called “tejo” and involves throwing a heavy disc 20 metres into a metre square wet clay target. In the middle of the clay lies a metal ring, and if your tejo goes into this little circle you get big points. Lying on 2 points on this ring are explosive packages of dynamite. Hit these and its 3 points for an explosion.

After 3 bottles of Antiqueno, the local fire-water and a case of beer, England had lost to Colombia, Daniel had won the singles, but – I had beaten Tom.

What a day. And as we were the only guests we took over the music system and hit Inirida with English Indie-rock and danced the night away semi-naked in the heat.

AUGUST 23 – Inirida to Bogota

A last mornings birding before our flight. I slept through both alarms and was woken by Ale’s shouts at 6 am.

It did not need a breathalyser to tell I was probably still inebriated.

We tukked down the road to Curva Pepes and got straight on to a WHITE-NAPED SEEDEATER. A lifer for Ale as well.

Daniel had a friend with some farmland that was still partially forested called Cano Vitina. And here came the last lifer of this tour – YAPACANA ANTBIRD – male and female at point blank range, even my toxic breath did not scare them away.

We tried for another antbird but my headache became too debilitating. Ale took pity on me and we headed back early to get Tom and go to the airport.

It was with great sadness we left Inirida – truly a wonderful part of the world and yesterday’s boat back at sunset with the dolphins was our tour moment.

Jules Eden

September 2019

Guaviare River

Post-tour. We spent a week in Taganga next to Santa Marta in the North SCUBA diving.

I took a morning to visit Minca which added Rosy Thrush-tanager, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant and a showy SCALED PICULET.

On the Ocellated Tapaculo at Penas Blancas

Cano Vitina –looking for antbirds and Nurofen

The author celebrating a Capuchinbird

Comments on this post:
2019-09-08

Sooty-capped Puffbird

Janky
2019-09-08

Dusky-backed Jacamar

Janky
2019-09-08

Don’t look up with your mouth open.

Janky
2019-09-08

Uraba Poisonous Frog

Janky
2019-09-08

Dining area

Janky
2019-09-08

Lunch atop the mountain

Janky
2019-09-08

Purple-throated Woodstar on the feeders.

Janky
2019-09-08

Grey-cheeked Nunlet

Janky
2019-09-08

Chesnut-naped Antpitta

Janky
2019-09-08

Oh Yessss. Ocellated Tapaculo

Janky
2019-09-08

Green and Black Fruiteater

Janky
2019-09-08

A rather stern looking Chestnut-naped Antpitta

Janky
2019-09-08

Janky
2019-09-08

They eat us – we eat them. The cycle of life.

Janky
2019-09-08

Guaviare River

Janky
2019-09-08

On the Ocellated Tapaculo at Penas Blancas

Janky
2019-09-08

Cano Vitina –looking for antbirds and Nurofen

Janky
2019-09-08

The author celebrating a Capuchinbird

Janky

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
4th May 2018 - EUROVISION 2018

Taking one for the team here -

I have looked at all the Eurovision entries so you do not have to!

Semi finals on 8th and 10th,

final on 12th May.

UK entry – utter rubbish with a singer of indeterminate gender and frankly over 50 – not good enough. I apologise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K--kIdOpbJM

Romania – stunning singer, rubbish song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK7ggCjA98g

Italy – the MOST politically correct song i have ever had the misfortune of wasting 3m 45s over

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zguJGdoPPnw

So IMO the best 2 – Hungary and Israel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w00c8KbQIME

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CziHrYYSyPc

But IEO [In Europe’s Opinion ] have a bet on Cyprus and FYR Macedonia -

or my most likely.....

GO AZERBAJAN...She crosses her heart, tears down firewalls and is stronger than cannon balls. Yes, she actually sung that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZMSrSCishw

J

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
5th February 2018 - Plastic divers.....

It is the buzzword for 2018. Our PM promises it will be gone by 2020. Attenborough abhors it. And sea life chokes at the very thought of it.

No - not The Donald.

Plastic.

But dear diver – are YOU part of the problem – or part of the solution.

Let’s find out with the Tanked Up PLASTIC QUIZ.

Q1 – You are flying off to distant dive sites and your gold-plated dive kit, worth more than a car is going to be checked in as hold baggage.

How do you secure this precious item?

A – It will go in my chunky material based wheely case. A solid padlock across the 2 zippers and a “where’s my bag” chip is sewn into the base, with full app support to find the baggage in the back of a handler’s car, will do.

B – Awesome. There’s a bloke who will spin a hundred metres of bright green placcy around the dive bag. For an extra tenner I get full bubble wrap padding, and a knife to cut it all away. I think he said “bio-degradable” but I can test that by chucking it off my hotel balcony on arrival and monitoring its decreased size every time I lean out there for a fag each night.

Q2 – Your dive club is having a 70’s disco night. But Lordy – if the DJ plays any more Rose Royce, Manhattan Foundation or Abba there’s gonna be a punch up. Let’s request a song to big things up. Name that tune…

A – Something earthy, something harmonic with the ebb and flow of nature. Something that represents the camaraderie of us divers as we help protect the world. “Combine Harvester” by the Wurzels

B – Go Belgian with Europe’s favourite proto-punk. “Ca plane pour moi”. Plastic Bertrand please Mr DJ. And play it on vinyl whilst you’re at it.

Q3 – Your new dive buddy-girlfriend has turned vegan. And she is getting more serious about this. A total lack of bacon is worsening her mood dive by dive. She is now looking at your fine leather shoes and making “hmmmm-ing” noises. What do you do?

A – You love her as she’s the only diver you have met that has half a tank of air left when you have guzzled all yours. That lack of cheese must have increased her lung efficiency. Leather shoes to the charity bin. And welcome to the dark blue espadrilles in my footwear display cabinet.

B – There’s new shoes for a fiver down my local street market. They seem to melt a bit when placed near a radiator, so must be made of PVC. But no worries as her lack of sausages, BabyBels and Big Macs are soon going to compromise her ability to lift my weary body out of the ocean. And to carry 2 pints from the bar. That’s when it’s all over. Then I simply fly-tip the footwear and the old shoes are revealed when she takes her sacks of couscous out of the kitchen.

Q4 – All that diving has made me thirsty. Must be the osmosis, the sun and the stinking hangover after all that dodgy Saqqara “beer”. Let’s get a drink at the hotel bar as soon as I get in. But - problem. The pint of Coke in the glass is at least 6 inches away from my mouth. How do I get to consume it?

A – I simply either lean forward a bit, place mouth to glass rim and slurp. Or I place the glass into my hand and lift it a bit to place against my buccal cavity and slurp. Fairly straight forward.

B - I shall insist upon a single use hollow pipe-like object which allows me to suck down the fluid without moving any part of my body except my cheeks. I shall then take this so called “drinking pipe” on my next dive and shove it into a groupers mouth and tell him it’s a snorkel.

Q5 – Congratulations – you have reached the final of Pointless. Alexander Armstrong asks you what you will do with the jackpot if you win it. You and your dive buddy say you will both go on a liveaboard. You win the paltry grand, wishing you had entered The Chase for a bit more booty. After flights, insurance and excess baggage you have £100 left for the actual boat. Your cabin is in the bilges with no service or cleaning. How do you dispose of all the rubbish that is now blocking the door?

A – Best to separate all the paper, plastic and organic waste into 3 different piles. One can be given to the ship’s galley to trash with food left-overs. One can be folded up neatly and put into re-cyc when back on shore. The other I will take all the way back home with me to dispose of properly.

B – There is a clear window after the last night-dive and the first dawn-dive. So I have 4 hours in which to let it all accidentally fall out of my hand into the sea. I am sure the current will take it to China where they make energy out of this sort of stuff.

Q6 – Your Dive Club wants to raise money for a good charitable cause. Scuba Trust or something sharkey. At the meeting to decide how to do this you are asked for your suggestions. What your big idea?

A – No brainer. Beach clean up. Last week the club RIB’s propeller was entwined in fishing line. You saw 2 rays encased in Tesco bags and even the crabs had somehow gotten elastic bands everywhere. Filthy stuff. Let’s clean it all up so our children and grand-children can enjoy nature as it was intended.

B – How about we all binge-watch Game of Thrones. That’s like a million hours of telly. And we can sustain ourselves on Deliveroo Chinese deliveries. All the empty placcy cartons can be put in the local council recyclable plastic bin liners. Because they do recycle them properly – don’t they.

Q7 – Fruit eh! Delicious and part of your five a day. Let’s stock up before the dive. Where do you go to get your citrus joy?

A – My local ethically sourced Fairtrade vendor. You can buy such goodies that not only sustain yourself when needing a sugar boost, but also supports many communities around the world in an environmental way. Not only does that orange make ME feel better, but I feel better for the good that it does for the planet when I eat it.

B – I go to a shop, part of a fast declining high street brand that my Mum used to buy her bras and my socks from that always encases said consumable in thick layers of plastic. You just don’t know who could have touched the fruit from picking to packing to purveying. And despite its thick outer protective peel – there’s no way I am going to get Ebola as part of my 5 a day.

Q8 – Blinkin’ Flip. All this Global Warming is making me freeze to death after a dive in the UK. Can we get some outrageous temperatures here please. Especially in Portland in April. So how shall I warm up immediately after a dive?

A – My trusty fleece. You know they make it from re-cycled plastic bottles. The warmth doesn’t just come from the material. It comes from feeling good too. Yeah, I know the zipper is bust and it smells of chips and fox spoor after my partner used it to clean the dog after she walked it after her breakfast. But that is fleecy-life. Mine is a brand that translates to “mountain house” and I get great looks back from other divers in the car park when I wave at them with the same brand as myself.

B – Lucky I saved all that bubble-wrap from my last Amazon purchase. Buddy holds one end, and two twirls later I am as snuggly as a kettle in a large brown box posted to me from some weird place in France that has been with the neighbours for a fortnight. Not sure where it gets to though, after leaving it by the overfull bin at Fleet Services during Storm Trevor.

Q9 – We need a new wreck at my local dive site. Thanks to the cuts at the MoD they want to offload an aircraft carrier. How shall we sink it?

A – Lets use some fertilizer, ammonia concentrated from my own urine and Fairtrade sugar. Brown not white – it’s healthier. Detonate with a box of Swan Vesta matches lit from a longish thread of Crofters Ethical Wool.

B - Hit the Dark Web. Buy some plastic explosives from the CIA by pretending to be Ukrainian. Don’t worry where the nano-particles go after the explosion. Probably into fish and the food-chain. Not my problem.

Q10 – You suddenly realise that most of the world’s problems are due to over-population and we will double that human volume before England ever win a World Cup again. What do you do as a humble diver?

A – Call the Vatican to discuss with the Pope his attitudes towards birth control. Get put on hold as he is Canonising at the moment. Get fed up of the Gregorian chant music and ring off as it’s a quid a minute to call.

B - Refuse to have the flu jab next winter as an offering to take yourself out of the population explosion. Make sure your will states “Burial at Sea – encased in the bubble wrap from IKEA’s flatpack coffin”. Your grieving family will most likely lose the allan key for assembly.

ANSWERS

Mostly A’s : Go and buy an Ireland rugby shirt. Marry the Topshop bosses daughter. Cover yourself in clover. Watch a re-run of Opportunity Knocks. You are greener than a dollar bill. Celebrate.

Mostly B’s : Hang your head in shame Sir or Madam. Because of you I have to pay 5p a shopping bag and end up stealing the trolley and dumping it in a local lake.

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
16th November 2016 - WHY TRUMP WON

Part 1 of an occasional series.

Headline in the Daily Beast - and without any irony at all.

" Is she an auntie or a stepmom? Tyga's girlfriend Kylie Jenner babysits King Cairo after Blac Chyna gave birth to daughter Dream

"

Right, so that's a Tyga, a Kylie, a King Cairo, a Blac Chyna and finally a Dream.

No wonder Bob and Martha from the Rust Belt don't feel part of that world.

JCF

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
16th August 2016 - FLIGHTS NOT TO FANCY

Janky was perusing the Interweb lunch-time news today in search of good old facts.

The chosen source is always a balance of the Guardian [it’s free] and the Daily Mail [it’s also free] which gives him the correct view of the world.

A little known bizarre fact is that Mail readers go to the comments section of the Guardian to berate the Lefties, and vice versa, so Janky has a nice middle of the road opinion to teach to Young Fly.

During holiday season, it’s always nice to see the British holidaymaker kickin’ off on board their cheap flights. So much so that a ban on booze is seriously considered for air travel – not a problem for the Jankster as it’s the only place I don’t lush it, as you can’t smoke at the same time.

De-tox heaven for me.

Yesterday saw a new low – one passenger berating a kid and parents for the noise the crying child was making. She called the father a p****. Dunno if that was prick, ponce, pervy or a mis-pronounced pratt. Doesn’t seem to be such an asterisky sort of insult in Janks world by the way.

The flight – Manchester to Ibiza.

FFS – if it does NOT kick off on that route, then there’s something wrong with the world!

SO.. for your benefit, Janky has spent the time it’s taken to eat a Tesco £3 meal deal searching the 5 most bawdy air routes available.

5 – Birmingham – Prague, on a Thursday evo. Yup our Brummie chums take a day off work and Stag it out to Bohemia.

4 – Toronto – Havana . In March. There's a party that only Norte Americano students have each year. Avoiding their mind numbingly easy classes and 8 foot of snow for a week, they pile on to cheap flights south chanting "Spriiiiiing Breaaaak". So culturally popular this festival is, it has spurned over 20 Hollywood blockbusters, including Spring Break Bikini girls, Spring Break Jocks and Alien versus Spring Breakers. Yankees go to Miami and Cancun. But Canadians go to Cuba. A Canadian going flight crazy is like a Manc half asleep. So not as terrifying as 3 below, but if you want to see a Nanuk dressed as a polar bear punching the lights out of a guy wearing moose antlers both fuelled on free Molson, this is your flight.

3 – Manchester – Ibiza. See above. It’s obvious really, and as bad on the return as the way out.

2 – London – Nairobi. This is the most often used flight for repatriation to East Africa. Janky thanked God he had over ear headphones as the failed asylum seeker screamed for 3 hours before urinating her seat and being moved up to Club Class if she promised to behave. Janky tried this after failing to upgrade on the flight home – was refused and now has the arse equivalent of trench foot.

And the Number 1 unruly flight on the planet.

No, not Manchester to the Rest of the World.

Well done you Aussies.

1 – Perth – Bali. 3 hours of beer sodden airtime, with the highest rate of toilet tobaccing, molestation and larikiness. Average 4 arrests per flight.

JCF

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
22nd January 2016 - EURODIVER

In or out?

It’s the question on everyone’s lips.

But if you can’t make up your mind – take this test to see if you are Jacques Cousteau on Calypso or Admiral Lord Nelson on Victory.

Let the Dive decide.

1. PRE-DIVE

You have been asked politely to be at the front of your hotel at 8 a.m for the pick up to get to the Dive Boat for an early departure.

• Answer A – Stupid – I have to have a coffee from the room kettle, dress in my Desigual breakfast clothing and then ask for a very complicated omelette from the man before having more coffee and perhaps some cheese. Then I have to wash my sunglasses before I can be seen by the driver. Oh, I have forgotten my spare snorkel for the days diving. I will be only a few minutes getting it.

• Answer B – “Bloody ‘ell love – its 7.55 – make us a cup of tea – and I’ll take the mini-bar water and Pringles for now. Don’t want to be late”

2. ON THE BUS

It’s way hot. Like over 20 degrees. All the passengers are sweating. What do you do?

• Answer A – Insist on keeping all the windows closed and then trying to see if the A/C will work for the short duration to the port.

• Answer B – Assume the 80’s converted Transit is basically screwed. Open all the windows and be glad you are wearing a lightweight football shirt where the sweat diffusion cools you down.

3. ON THE BOAT

Dive site is an hour away. There’s a briefing in 45 minutes.

• Answer A – Get kitted up straight away. Start tank checking, suiting and lens cleaning the camera. Sit on the seat and talk loudly about your last dive and the size of the sharks you saw.

• Answer B – Where’s the coffee? I need some now. Fumble with the powder milk sachet and pour sugar 6 inches away from your cup when the boat hits a wave. Drink it and then need the loo. Break the hand pump and hope no-one has noticed. Suit up in less than a minute. Good to go- but your camera is still in the hotel room.

4. ON THE DIVE

Wow. The best coral ever seen with delicate anemones and nudibranchs. What’s your Dive Plan?

• Answer A – To try to get as many underwater souvenirs as I can possibly snaffle – with the compliance of my buddy. If there was a B&Q at the port I would have gotten a couple of chisels and a waterproof angle grinder.

• Answer B – Was there coral? Was there an anemone? I thought I saw a shark – but it could have been a plastic bag. God, I am so hungover. Maybe the next dive will revive me.

5. POST DIVE

Time to get out of your wetsuit and into your civvies before the boat hits the home mooring. Does this take long?

• Answer A – Of course not. I shall fully remove all my neoprene in front of everyone as I am happy with my body. Whilst naked, as we do often at home, I shall apply as much moisturiser as it takes to rehydrate my skin. If you are offended by my nakedness, then that is your problem not mine. My buddy is also nude and will apply ample L’Oreal to my back.

• Answer B – Ages. I have to undress with a badly positioned towel around my waist. If no-one is looking I shall quickly pop on my Primark undies. If someone is looking I will shuffle a pair of shorts up my legs and hope the towel will stay in place. Once the bottom bit is done, my gut releases the towel so everyone can see the snake tattoo coming up from my perineum to my shoulder.

6. UNDERWATER CAMERA

Digital photography and a big piece of plastic housing has allowed the keen amateur to replicate shots that only the best used to take. What have you got?

• Answer A – Nikon XLS with a Hannheiser mount. Krypton flash and all wrapped up in a bespoke Korean made poly-kevlar shield. Don’t ask what it cost – you can’t afford it. “Look at my shots of the grouper – got the light right – it even shows the tiny teeth. Macro-tastic. Wait while I take you through the other 400 images from the safety stop.”

• Answer B – Kodak Underwater – waterproof to 4 metres. But I took it down to 60 to see if it would implode. Got a few shots of fish tails – but a great one of your wife/buddy sharing air and phone numbers with the Instructor after they got bored of waiting for you to photo a shrimp. One of us will be mugged on the way back to the hotel. It won’t be me.

7. SUN LOTION

Skin cancer is a serious issue. Especially in a hot, sunny ozone free country that you visit often. Slap it all on?

• Answer A – Of course. I apply Factor 50 before I go to sleep, and top up with that new stuff P20 for the day. I do not want to burden my health service with an unnecessary melanoma when I could have avoided it.

• Answer B – It’s not that hot. Honey, give me that stick we put on the kids lips and I will try it on my nose. You need to get some sun on you the first day to get the tan working by the end of the week. And the red turns into brown later – I read it on the web.

8. DIVE KIT

Diving, apres-dive or in the disco on your holidays – how important is it to you to have the latest gear on an active holiday?

• Answer A – Mandatory. We invented fashion. I cannot show a friend a single photo of me with barracuda if I look like a dick. Each year I burn my old neoprene to power my eco-friendly chalet and get a subsidy for my new Mares from the local mayor.

• Answer B – Northern Diver. Second hand. E-bay.

9. BREAKFAST

Power the diving day by eating well. It’s your fuel for the cold waters below the thermocline, and when you mix gas on that 100 metre dive, a 5 hour deco stop can make you hungry.

• Answer A – Bircher muesli, fruit salad and some of that salty cheese with a tiny bit of salami.

• Answer B – Under the bacon lies bread to mop up the fat. That and more bacon. If they have sausages, five. If they have Baked Beans – a bowl full. Cereal to make me feel healthy – but only the bootleg Corn Flakes.

10. FLIGHT HOME

A huge queue at the check in for the flight back. Your local guide has a friend at the counter and can get you straight to the front for 20 bucks.

• Answer A – NO – I will go there myself and demand to be checked in now, because I have a loud voice and a bad haircut.

• Answer B – NO – I will wait in line because I can complain later. Though I won’t as the phone line is an 0845 and that will take all my phone credit.

HOW DID YOU DO

• Mainly A’s : Zut alors, Teufel, Ay caramba – you are truly a Scion of Schengen. You will vote IN to bring you closer to the culture and sophistication of Rome piazzas and cheaper roaming charges.

• Mainly B’s : As British as the bacon butty you eat by a freezing cold quarry in mid-November. You will vote OUT as you know global warming will give Weymouth a Mediterranean coastline in a few years and so there will never be a need to leave this Sceptred Isle.

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
12th January 2016 - AQUATOTS

There was a time when this boggy flooded island used to export to the world - wool and democracy.

It’s so different now. Time with others from the continent leaves a different perspective. We are not so much Great Britain, but the “Islanders”.

Cameron’s wet negotiations, lucky that at least the Hungarian PM gave him some time and a promise before our vote, the comedy of our opposition, it looks like we have lost it all in the face of the Europeans.

But no.

We still export the best of one thing to the whole darn world.

Our good ole British Paedos.

Kick off in Cologne. We can give you worse.

The Jungle walking up the Tunnel to get here. Bad?

Nope – our new export to the EU sends a bigger shiver down collective euro-spines than anything coming here from within the Incontinent.

Local news from the Romanian borderland with Serbia, not even reported here yet, has fingered a peculiar man in the local swimming pool.

Timisoara Daily has exposed a perv who has been coming into the local baths daily. Aged over 40, this guy has avoided the Adults Pool to use the Kiddies Pool with the excuse he is learning to swim. CCTV has him there on most days.

But guess what he does when next to tots doing their first breast-stroke.

Yup. His Speedos accidentally fall down and he proceeds to Master his Johnson.

It took a few Mums to see this and report him.

However there is no underwater CCTV in operation for full legal prosecution, so he has just been banned from all pools in a 300 kilometre radius of Timisoara.

And children.

“Bloody Germans” I say.

“An Islander” says Cruella.

YEESUS. An Underwater Paedo.

A Subaqua Savile.

Give Tom Watson a wet suit and a Dive Lawyer.

FFS – can we stop this. Can Operation Yewtree extend to Oak tree, Elm tree, Ash tree and bloody Olive tree. What is it about the UK that we seem to have our kiddie fiddlers operating all over Europe, including small pools in far flung ex-Commie towns?

What does the UK have that the EU does not to cause this?

Cheap EasyJet flights to soft policed areas. Perhaps.

A lack of out-going border control at Luton. Definitely.

Suspicion.

That’s the Bullseye – last time I took Young Fly for a walk on the common – I had my eye out for them all.

“Would you like to play with my puppy?” – “Would you like a smack”

“Which way is Portsmouth?”

“Do you have a light?”

“How old is your son?”

They are EVERYWHERE I tell you.

Romania just has to catch up with our home grown paranoia.

Mind you – last time I was in Austria, the guy from Air BnB had to go the cellar to get change for 100 Euros from his daughter.

And their child.

JCF

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
3rd June 2015 - QUOTE QUIZ

Heard today:

“But it was mainly people owning up to it. They felt embarrassed, they felt frustrated, they felt stupid, but you’ve got to man up to this stuff. I could hear in their voices, some were in tears, just mad at themselves.”

Who said it and why?

A: FIFA committee members realising that Seppo really couldn’t go on at all – was deeply implicated in all these “funds to research football schools”, which never did - and the Feds are about to bust him too.

B: LibDem back room staff on allowing Charles Kennedy his last appearance on Question Time. The one where weary and woozy he stumbled mid-sentence and was pleased Dimbleby cut through him and went back to the audience. The one which made us a bit less surprised at news of his demise.

C: An ISIS schoolgirl jihadi bride’s comments on being re-united with her parents back in the UK, after coming home after running out of sanitary towels and RPGs in Mosul.

D: None of the above

Correct answer: D

Oh yes – It was Simon Cowell – after discovering a dog had a stunt double to win his show.

Beating yet another troupe of street dancing estate kids who think they’re Diversity.

The fact that this Nation has had 2 dogs winning in the last 3 years, shows we seriously lack talent.

JCF

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
9th April 2015 - Q-TIPS

Cuba's in the news. To go or not to go. Janky went to find out and offers you these Cuba-tips.

• DO – Go and go now. This time will be known as the Castro P.M. Yes Pre-MacDonald’s - the Americans are coming. Current President Raul has 2 more years in office and the expectation with the lightening of U.S. relations is a tsunami of cruise boats and burger lovers. It still has a wonderful Caribbean Communist charm. Perhaps if Russia had better weather, rum, beaches and beautiful people then Putin would still have a Soviet Union.

• DO – Try diving on both coasts. The north has all the big tourist hotels [Cubans are not allowed to stay there], so its boat diving from your all-inclusive, but you won’t see the real country, especially if you fly charter directly to Cayo Coco. Try the south coast. Better coral and even some cenotes filled with fish and perfectly clear water. The Bay of Pigs two hours south of Havana is cool and you will see the true Cuba.

• DO – Get a basic NVQ in plumbing before you go. The loos and showers can be pretty hopeless at times, and rather than wait for the local guy to finish his siesta, I found it easier to fix it myself. A travel spanner set from B and Q can easily fit into a dive bag. Presto, a non-embarrassingly empty khasi for when your partner comes back from the cigar shop.

• DO – A little history. West of Havana are some amazing mountains and caves where Russell Brand lookalike “El Commadante” lived during the US funded military invasion in ’61. You can see his bedroom still preserved in a small cavern, replete with writing desk and comfy red pillows. They call it “Chez Guevara”.

• DO – Spend the best 30 bucks of your life on one thing. And this is a must do. Go to Central Park in Havana Old Town and see the line-up of old drop-top Pontiacs, Buicks, Plymouths and finned Chevvys. Brightly coloured and polished to perfection. In an hour you can see most of the city including Revolution Square and the best of the fading Spanish colonial architecture. Finish with the long drag by the bay called the Malecon where they fish from floating rubber rings and families dance to all the musicians playing by the sea. You will never forget it - and you will look and feel “pura vida”.

• DON’T – Ever lose your patience. Yes you have to wait in line a lot of times. Especially on arrival at the airport which can take over two hours to get through - what with customs, baggage and buying your tourist money called a “convertible peso”. But remember that the locals do it all the time when they have to get their free daily bread, milk, meat and eggs. The locals joke that that is why it’s called “Queue-ba”.

• DON’T – Have high expectations of the food outside Havana and the big hotels. Rice n beans, chicken or pork. That’s about it. I did ask why during the revolution they shot all the chefs as well as Batista’s soldiers. That was met with a frosty look. But in the home of rum, mojitos and daiquiris as well as Cohibas – who needs to eat anyway.

• DON’T – Snigger on your way to the northern cays when you go through the town of Moron. Cuba has the highest literacy rate of all of the Americas, they can all play a musical instrument and guess what? Their doctors were in West Africa months before we were helping with the Ebola Crisis. None of them contracted it either – which is more than we can say for the U.S. and Blighty.

• DON’T – Forget that the monthly government salary to every Cuban is only 50 bucks. Road sweeper or neurosurgeon – it’s the same. A socialist paradise. But the shops are fairly empty. The biggest supermarket is the size of a Spar. If you have any old dive kit or stuff you don’t really need, leave it to the locals. They will be grateful. I now have a new routine for developing countries. Pop down to Primark – spend 20 quid on your clothes and give it all to the needy when you go. That leaves enough space in your suitcase to fill with all the fish carvings and Che berets your family at home need as presents.

• DON’T – Freak out if you find a crab in your room. And twenty outside the door. For a week a year the land crabs migrate from the forest behind the hotel, over the walls and through the grounds to the beach in front of you. The local roads are filled with more crabby splats than when a John West delivery truck jack-knifes on the M25. A true wonder of nature. And it’ll save you 5 grand on a flight to Christmas Island if you’re into that sort of thing.

JCF

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
1st April 2015 - TRICKSY

Had my cell phone swiped by the cleaner. But I just couldn’t figure out how. I know I left it in the room the previous afternoon. Did not take it out that evening and had to clear the area at 5 a.m. to go to another destination the next morning.

As a well experienced traveller I know how to exit a hotel room. Bag packed. Check under the bed, back into the bathroom to pull the shower curtain back. All clear. Do the drawers and look under the bed again. Sweet. Nothing left behind, it must be in last night’s pre-packed Samsonite. But lo…when you get to the next destination – your phone is not to be seen or found. The natural reaction is to blame yourself and maybeee you took it out to the bar and left it there. But I was so sure I did not and the phone call to the hotel is met with “Nada mobile” in your old room Senor – that you give up and put it to experience.

Until this happened.

Next hotel in Cayo Coco – a dodgy 3 star on Cuba’s northern cays, Janky found the tricksy way it happens.

A pair of missing shades. They were here – deffo – last night before we went out for the evening and afore the service person does a “sheet-turn-down” (still the most un-necessary waste of hotel staff time, along with towel origami).

No shades the next morning. 30 minutes of panicked returns to the bar, restaurant and beach. Not to be found.

But then Janky is putting his last fag out in the Coke can in the bin under the sink. And guess what’s there right under the other minibar tins and empty Soltan factor 50 bottles. YES – a pair of sunglasses. No way they fell there, the bin is well under the sink.

They were put there by your friendly room cleaner.

So here’s the trick. Your stuff is not stolen. It’s hidden in room, least where you will expect to look. They know you are checking out that morning and can go pick it up when you are half way to Zapata to see the crab migration. They also know you won’t come all the way back for an item worth under a hundred quid.

And to think Fidel, Raul and Che fought for that level of petit crime. Pathetic. Cuba, sort it out.

So dear Traveller – when you are 110% convinced that your missing stuff is in the room. Check the bin and in time check the one by the loo where they know you would never look in a country that can’t flush Andrex into the sewage system.

JCF

For an even better blog than this... Read Rob's Blog

 
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